Enforcing Blasphemy Laws Have Dire Consequences

May 27, 2021

Blasphemy laws criminalize expression that insults or offends religious doctrines. Such laws are often used to restrict freedom of religion or belief. As of 2020, 84 countries still had blasphemy laws. The severity of a blasphemy law on the books, however, is only the beginning of the story. The enforcement of such laws—either government enforcement or mob violence—undermines human rights, including freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression.

Joelle Fiss and Jocelyn Getgen Kestenbaum are the authors of the USCIRF report “Violating Rights: Enforcing the World’s Blasphemy Laws,” released in December 2020. They join us to discuss the findings of their report, and the impact of blasphemy laws on religious freedom.

Dwight Bashir, Director of Outreach and Policy, USCIRF

Joelle Fiss, Member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Panel of Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief

Jocelyn Getgen Kestenbaum, Associate Professor of Clinical Law at Cardozo School of Law